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March/April 2021

I Volume 18 No 2 I  I R45.00 per issue


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Research trends on Greenhouse Technology Page 4

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IPM & Plant management Page 14

First Aquaponics social enterprise Page 18

Undercover growing solutions to help your business flourish

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greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics PROPRIETOR I ADVERTISING SUZANNE OOSTHUIZEN 082 832 1604 suzanne@axxess.co.za EDITORIAL CONTENT & COMPILATION Johan Swiegers 082 882 7023 editors@axxess.co.za ADDRESS PO Box 759, Montana Park 0159 E-MAIL magazine@axxess.co.za FAX 086 518 3430 DESIGN Fréda Prinsloo PRINTING Business Print Centre DISCLAIMER Undercover Farming accepts no responsibility for claims made in advertisements or for opinions and recommendations expressed by individuals or any other body or organisation in articles published in Undercover Farming. COPYRIGHT Copyright is reserved and the content may only be reproduced with the consent of the Editor.

Contents 4

Research Trends Increase on Greenhouse Technology for Sustainability


Shade net protects your valuable agricultural investment in many ways

7 8

Water stress may put business models in jeopardy


Food security vital for new head of Dube TradePort’s state-of-the-art Dube AgriLab

13 14

AgTech Leader Netafim to acquire Gakon

FRONT PAGE: Dube Agrilab & Food Security Pp 9-12


RSA Group Secures 100% Food Safety Accreditation at Tshwane Market

IPM and plant hygiene in under protected cultivation reiterated


16 Deciduous fruit, grape vine and horticultural breeding programmes by arc excell

18 19

Inmed: First aquaponics social enterprise launched Subscription form


14 Obtain your Undercover Farming magazine digitally!

Online subscription Subscribe online now! E-mail your deposit and address details to: magazine@axxess.co.za More information from Suzannne Oosthuizen: 082 832 1604 See subscription form on page 16 visit us at • besoek ons by

The Scriptures

Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that trust in Him.

Subscription details on p19



he greenhouse, and by now well-known as undercover farming (excuse the punt!) industry also experienced bumps in the Covid-19 road during the past year. More and more admissions are received of recent over the fallacy of this terrible onslaught on democracy of human beings globally. Global media is used to deface people, curtail movement, restraining progress of economies for sinister reasons. One industry that came out tops during this process is agriculture. We are indeed proud of the fact that the very industry’s drivers, that is often made off to be the ‘under dogs’, are those that produce food for our children. Hurray to you all! Greenhouse farming is an agricultural process that has been lagging behind, or shall we say, over-shadowed by traditional agriculture up to recent times. Global warming is a term that is much speculated about, but even the most conservative meteorological minded now have to admit there is more to it than what their perceptions were. In these times, where land becomes an issue, water rights tightens up, irregular climate patterns are experienced, undercover farming (including greenhouses, shade net and Aquaponics) becomes a more regular topic in agricultural research, farmer, industry and journalism circles. A group of Spanish researchers took interest in researching papers and topics written on greenhouse technology over the last two decades (read editorial) and came up with some staggering figures. Greenhouse farming is the agricultural technology of sustainable food production in future, globally. With winter ahead, we wish all our participants good luck with their climate management and harvests. To new start-ups; do not stop – if you fail, try, try again!

Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2 3

greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics Vertical indoor growing system.

Undercover production technology is an agricultural management system that has demonstrated its efficiency in intensifying food production. These systems, whether it is in plastic covered greenhouses or under shade net structures, constitute a feasible alternative for ensuring food supply, which is one of the greatest challenges faced by humankind in the twenty-first century. Technology has been able to meet the challenges related to greenhouse farming in both contributing to overcoming its limitations, correcting adverse impacts and ensuring system sustainability.

Greenhouse Technology for Sustainability Research Trends Increase on


he current growth trend drastically. According to food production of the human population, industry authors, despite the urgency together with the evolution of addressing this global problem, it of consumption patterns, is receiving little attention from the increasing demand and food waste scientific community or the political are placing unprecedented pressure sphere, given the lack of objectives in on agricultural systems and natural quantitative terms. resources. Therefore, the supply of food However, technological development is one of the greatest challenges that provides the fundamental elements humankind must face in the twenty-first to take on these challenges and to century. Agricultural ecosystems are the contribute to achieving a greater principal providers of food. sustainability in agriculture, both in Sustainability Sciences can be defined terms of resource depletion and as a discipline that studies the ways to socio-economic and environmental reach a sustainable society through the dimensions. The greenhouse industry understanding of interactions among is continually developing new strategies nature, humans and society. It brings and technologies to resolve specific together a great variety of academic limitations of the crops, reducing any disciplines. At the related environmental Many researchers indicate end of the 90s, impact and adapting that, in order to fulfil the sustainability was to new market linked to ecosystems requirements. objective of food safety in and their ability to Therefore, a sustainable way, food keep their delivered soilless crops; the production should be service flows in comprehensive increased substantially environmental, control of the factors while, at the same time economic and social that constitute the contexts. It also relates the ecological footprint microclimate inside to the development the greenhouse; the of agriculture is reduced of agriculture and to creation of vertical drastically. the sustainable use of agro-ecosystems that water. can be located in urban environments; Many researchers indicate that, in order the development of specific to fulfil the objective of food safety environmentally sustainable solutions for in a sustainable way, food production supplying greenhouse production with should be increased substantially renewable energy; the development of while, at the same time the ecological new materials and structures capable footprint of agriculture is reduced of optimising production etc., are all

4 Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2

Soilless salad growing system.

Automated climate control screens.

now possible. Furthermore, technology has enabled the diversification of water sources for irrigation where this resource is the principal limiting factor, such as the use of reused water, desalinated seawater or rainwater collection. The research in greenhouse technologies (GT) revolves around six topics: the use of water for irrigation, the design of the optimum structure of the greenhouse, conserving the soil in the best productive conditions, energy consumption of the system as a whole, climate control within the facility and pest control.


greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics

Shade net protects your valuable

agricultural investment in many ways Greenhouse farming initially entailed glass houses with hydroponics systems to pro-long the production cycle and obtain even quality, amongst others. When shade net production came into being for car ports and other usages, all of a sudden the fruit and vegetable production sectors got interested to apply shade nets over their greens, berries, table grapes, cherries, citrus, figs, flowers and nut trees.


he producers mainly needed protection against the harsh South African sun, severe hail storms, wind chafing and birds. Greenhouse farming initially entailed glass houses with hydroponics systems to pro-long the production cycle and obtain even quality, amongst others. When shade net production came into being for car ports and other usages, all of a sudden the fruit and vegetable

PlusNet covering a hydroponics lettuce farm in the South Eastern Cape.

production sectors got interested to apply shade nets over their greens, berries, table grapes, cherries, citrus, figs, flowers and nut trees. The producers mainly needed protection against the harsh South African sun, severe hail storms, wind chafing and birds. Much research went in the different types and colours of shade net, as it has direct effect on the particular crop

it covers. Today, PlusNet is one of the foremost shade net manufacturers that cater for agriculture, homes and even camping equipment. The percentage of a shade net denotes its translucency and its colour has an effect on a particular crop or application. PlusNet’s 40% shade net is specifically manufactured for the agricultural sector and is suitable for most vegetable types.


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greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics Shade net protects your valuable agricultural investment

40% Black Shade net Palms • Cycads • Orchids • Pot Plants • Bedding Plants • Lillies


40% Titanium, 40% Green White or Grey Lettuce Nursery display Celery Wind Breaks Spinach Cauliflower Broccoli Vegetable seedlings Herbs Tomatoes Peppers Paprika Peppadews Beans Melons Baby marrows Butternut Bedding Plants

20% White UV blockage of up to 22% and a shading of 12%. The Agri+ 20% white shade net is widely popular in the Western Cape region and is suitable for covering: • Lettuce • Celery • Apples • Grapes • Berries • Citrus • Avos

Disclaimer: Shade netting requirements will depend on plant cultivar, location and climatic conditions in a specific region. Please consult with Plusnet before purchasing to ensure that this product will be suitable for your geographic location.

PlusNet covering export table grape vineyards.

Greenhouse Technology for Sustainability

The darker the net, the more shade it provides. Most plants do not produce well under darker nets as there is diffused sunlight, therefore very little photosynthesis takes place which means little growth. Under a 40% net, depending on the colour, various types of fresh produce grow well and produce excellent.

Advantages of Undercover Fruit Farming Covering orchards with low-percentage shade nets, like PlusNet’s 20% agricultural shade (3 Bar or 2 Bar) net can significantly improve the performance of the orchard / vineyard. Part of the responses can be attributed to the filtering of the light spectrum by the nets, and part is due to physical protection and creating a friendlier micro-climate. Improved external fruit quality is insured because of less sun burns and wind scars, smoother skin and better fruit colour. Furthermore, the low percentage shade nets reduce heat/chill stresses, offer enhanced photosynthesis and, importantly, better/less water usage. PlusNet products offer hazard Protection which include protection from excessive solar radiation, protection from environmental hazards (wind, hail, sandstorms and ice rain) and protection from flying pests (birds, fruit bats and insects). Every roll of PlusNet shade net carries a ten year guarantee against sun degradation. For further information on your particular shade net requirements, please get in touch with PlusNet at 011-412 39 54 or at nets@plusnet.co.za


These topics represent the principal limitations and consequences of protected agriculture to which technology seeks to provide a solution. Throughout the period of an analysis of study papers by researchers on GT(1999–2018), the concern about the above-mentioned topics is maintained; however, there has been a significant evolution in the technology developed in each of the aspects. Even though at the beginning of the period, many studies focused on the distribution and design of lighting and ventilation systems, support of the structure, etc., currently there is a predominance of studies on automation systems, the development of sensors, the design of online applications, biological pest control, the genetic modification of crops, and more. A study was done on the variation trends in the number of articles published on GT, with that of the

6 Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2

Robot tomato harvesting system.

Climate, soil, irrigation and light control systems for distant greenhouse management.

number of articles published on agriculture in general. This revealed the number of articles on traditional agriculture has increased at an average annual rate of 0.4% between 1999 and 2018, while the articles on GT have grown by 1.1%. Therefore, it may be concluded that GT is a subject which has gained relevance in the research on agricultural production activities. Source: Excerpts of a study on agricultural technology writers from the main agricultural production countries around the world, to acknowledge the increase in publicity for greenhouse technology trends and results. Authors: José A. Aznar-Sánchez, Juan F. VelascoMuñoz, Belén López-Felices and Isabel M. Román-Sánchez; Department of Economy and Business, Research Centre on Mediterranean Intensive Agro Systems and Agri-food Biotechnology, University of Almería, Spain. Published January 2020.

greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics

Water stress may put

business models in jeopardy


ccording to Gert Nel, partner and principal hydrogeologist at SRK Consulting, responsible water management is becoming a cornerstone of any sustainable business model – with investors starting to look more critically at how water risks are mitigated. “When putting together a business model for a multi-million rand business development, a key factor will now be the reliability of water supply,” said Nel. “Can you trust the local and regional water services provider to always offer a sustainable water source, and what are the broader environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues you will face with securing your own supply?” He highlighted that the signing of a contract with a public service provider does not necessarily guarantee water supply if all available traditional sources simply run out. “Indeed, the experiences of severe water shortages in cities like Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, confirmed that the communities’ basic right to water will take precedence, and businesses will be left to develop their own solutions in a crisis,” Nel said. “While desalination has been considered in coastal locations, it is a relatively costly option and takes years to implement,” he said. “Drilling boreholes is generally the only practical option, but businesses might be located on a very poor aquifer which could be low-yielding or have an unacceptable water quality.” The question that needs to be answered is whether there is enough groundwater for the enterprise, in addition to the other private and public users in the area. A hydro-geologist can compile a numerical groundwater model that delivers scientific predictions on the future availability of groundwater in the area you’re investing in – taking into account both existing use and the likely increased demand in the future. This is standard practice in the mining sector,

South Africa’s recent droughts are teaching businesses a life-changing lesson: we can no longer simply assume that clean water will always be available to keep operations running smoothly. for example, and all sectors (agriculture included) can learn from this. Legal compliance is of course a key aspect of ESG, and this requires early planning to accommodate the potentially lengthy permitting period. Boreholes require a water use license (WUL), which can take up to two years to approve. Having the necessary license in place gives a business the ability to start drilling and preparing the necessary infrastructure for self-supply of water in case of a drought. “This creates the vital back-up water supply to mitigate the operation’s risk in situations when the usual water supplier is unable to deliver,” Nel said. “It does need the investment in studies and permitting well in advance, though, as it will be too late to respond once ‘Day Zero’ is in sight.”

warned. “Surrounding borehole users could well accuse you of depleting their groundwater, or even causing the failure of their businesses due to their only water supply source drying up.” While it might be possible to address these claims through detailed hydrogeological investigations, it cannot always be assumed that the scientific answer will be accepted by all stakeholders. Careful processes of communication and consultation – and perhaps even collaboration over the use of available groundwater – will help to manage the risk of reputational damage or worse. SRKC

He reiterated the importance of considering ESG impacts related to the drilling of boreholes, and the crucial need to follow due process. “If you drill boreholes to provide a supplementary or sole supply to your business, and you don’t follow scientific, environmental and social due processes, you could face public resistance,” he

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RSA Group Secures 100%

Food Safety Accreditation at Tshwane Market

In a South African first, RSA Group, the country’s leading fresh produce sales agency, has expanded its food security accreditation at the Tshwane market to cover all its floors and product lines.


he group had already received accreditation for its tomato and vegetable lines from QPRO | SAI Global, one of the country’s foremost food security auditing and testing service providers. RSA Group’s certification has now been extended to cover its entire Tshwane Market presence, following a comprehensive audit and assessment process that began two years ago. ‘Food security accreditation is a very important aspect of the fresh produce industry,’ explains Jaco Oosthuizen, RSA Group CEO. ‘Consumers place significant importance on food safety, and so do retailers and farmers. As a key role player in the centre of the value chain RSA Group must also be able to certify food safety standards to ensure we support our business partners in their mission to deliver the best possible value to consumers.’ RSA Group has been carrying out the accreditation since the beginning of 2019

8 Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2

in its private capacity and views the journey as an important investment in its core business offering. Certification has involved an extensive, multi-phased process featuring regular audits specifically designed to examine warehousing practises such as food safety management systems, food safety incident management, good manufacturing practices, control of allergens, cleaning and disinfection, product contamination control, pest control, water quality, waste management and storage and transport, among many others. ‘Securing this accreditation was nonnegotiable for RSA Group. The industry keeps upping its game with respect to food security standards and it’s essential that we move hand in hand with our business partners,’ says Oosthuizen. ‘With Luan Wentzel, MD of RSA Group’s Tshwane and Regional business units, spearheading the accreditation process to a range of retailers through the

private markets we operate at, it makes natural business sense to get it in place at a major municipal market like Tshwane as well.’ The accreditation guarantees that all fresh produce moving through the RSA Group system at Tshwane Market upholds the highest food safety standards – and that these standards are maintained by the group independently of the surrounding market infrastructure. ‘Given various municipal infrastructure challenges, the accreditation assures producers that from an RSA Group perspective food moving through the supply chain is fully compliant,’ concludes Oosthuizen. ‘We view the move as a very positive development in our business, and we’ll certainly be considering it at other municipal markets as well.’

greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics The Dube AgriLab also produces seedlings for Dube TradePort’s tenants in their AgriZone. These include sweet and hot pepper, tomato, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings.

Dube TradePort’s AgriLab has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the sharing of intellectual property rights and exclusivity following successful research and development of a new mega flora plant aimed at rebuilding/improving protected deforested/environmentally sensitive areas on the African continent.

Food security vital for new head of Dube TradePort’s state-of-the-art

Dube AgriLab


his is one of several a doctoral student in conducting plant achievements of KwaZulutissue culture research. Her career Natal’s only accredited choice in plants was further enhanced commercial tissue culture by the experience she received at laboratory with the capacity to produce Mondi (Forestry Operations) where she up to five million plants annually, says did internship as part of her Honours Nokuthula Myeza, Senior Manager: postgraduate studies. Tissue Culture Facility. She completed a MSc. Biological A recent newcomer to the Dube Sciences in 2005 while working at the Tradeport Corporation (DTPC) / Agricultural Research Council, InfruitecAgrilab laboratory, Myeza has 17 years Nietvoorbij, Stellenbosch, Cape Town. of combined experience in plant tissue As a researcher her focus was on the culture research, commercial production long-term conservation of banana and of in vitro plants, gene plantain through in “When I see people eating banking and post entry vitro techniques and potatoes, I feel proud of the cryopreservation quarantine processing of imported plant processes as well work I have done towards material. food security ensuring this as development of Born in Dundee, agricultural sector remains embryo rescue Myeza studied techniques for prosperous.” Biological Sciences early fruiting Nokuthula Myeza, Senior Manager: at the University peach Tissue Culture Facility. of KwaZulu-Natal. varieties. Her interest in plant biotechnology From Stellenbosch she was ignited when, as a third-year transferred in 2008 to student working as a Temporary the Agricultural Research Research Assistant in the University’s Council’s Vegetable and Biotechnology Laboratory, she helped Ornamental Plant Institute

(ARC-VOPI) in Pretoria as the In Vitro Public Good Gene Bank Assistant Manager. Within a year she took on the position of In Vitro Commercial Gene bank Manager. Under her leadership the 72 year old Institute’s commercial in vitro gene bank received its first accreditation. Here she worked closely with potato, sweet potato and flower bulb plant breeders and advocated as well as promoted food security through passionately serving South Africa’s R7.45 billion (2016) potato industry, the sweet potato industry and local and international private clients.


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5 300M




10 Undercover farming I



January/February 2021

I Volume 18 No 1

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THE LATEST IN INNOVATIVE FARMING TECHNOLOGY Located within the heart of Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone, Dube AgriLab is the only commercial tissue culture lab in KwaZulu-Natal, and has the capacity to produce up to 5 million plantlets a year. Operated by Dube TradePort Corporation, Dube AgriLab (a division of Dube AgriZone) is a highly sophisticated, ultra-modern 5 300m2 plant tissue culture laboratory, hardening facility and dispatch area. As a purpose-built micro-propagation facility resourced with cutting edge farming technology, Dube AgriLab propagates under sterile conditions so as to supply high-quality, disease-free, true-to-type young plants through tissue culture. With the expertise to develop and refine protocols in-house, and the capacity to produce most plant varieties, Dube AgriLab is set to service the plant propagation needs of Dube AgriZone, as well as the needs of the KwaZulu-Natal farming community. Strategically located adjacent to King Shaka International Airport and Dube Cargo Terminal, Dube AgriLab is ideally positioned to service national and international farmers and professional growers. Driven by Dube TradePort’s commitment to sustainability, Dube AgriLab utilises innovative green technology such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems in order to reduce their environmental impact whilst simultaneously increasing quality and service excellence.


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Food security vital


She contributed towards speeding up potato production in the country through ensuring successful maintenance of industry mother stock and annually supplying disease-free, true-to-type in vitro potato plants for production of good quality seed potatoes. Food security in the country is important to Myeza, who said: “When I see people eating potatoes, I feel proud of the work I have done towards food security ensuring this agricultural sector remains prosperous.” Another achievement in terms of food security was the safe in vitro conservation of more than 2000 accessions of plant germplasm (related plant material from a single species which is collected at one time from a specific location) of selected vegetable, ornamental and medicinal crops for use by researchers, breeders and industries. Successful post entry quarantine processing of more than 100 lines and/or cultivars of potato, cassava, sweet potato, yam and banana and the release of over 20 new cultivars now commercially produced to address food security in South Africa was achieved by Myeza’s team.

As head of the highly sophisticated to working together with the South and ultra-modern 5 300sqm Dube African sugar industry. In the past AgriLab, Myeza will oversee three work few years, Dube Agrilab R&D has streams − Research and Development, released a number of new protocols propagation through plant tissue culture which resulted in expansion of product and the greenhouse used to harden off offering to include forestry, sub-tropical the new tissue culture fruits, vegetables, The Dube AgriLab has produced plantlets. succulents, ornamentals and elite Micro-propagation or diversified into producing medicinal crops (a tissue culture under seedlings for Dube full list of products sterile conditions TradePort’s tenants in can be obtained produces high quality Dube AgriZone. These from agrilab@ disease-free, trueinclude sweet and hot dubetradeport.co.za). to-type young plants pepper, tomato, broccoli and The Dube AgriLab at a lower cost. It is ideal for highhas diversified into cauliflower seedlings. volume vegetative producing seedlings propagation; the propagation of highfor Dube TradePort’s tenants in Dube value scarce and elite plants or cultivars; AgriZone. These include sweet and hot plants which might be difficult to pepper, tomato, broccoli and cauliflower propagate by other means or plants used seedlings. New technology has been for breeding purposes and research. acquired to reduce the planting time and improve product uniformity as the The lab’s research and development is lab strives to improve its service to its informed by client and industry needs, in-house clients. said Myeza, and some of the most recent protocols (recipes) that have Given Nokuthula Myeza’s passion, been developed are those for mega expertise and career to date, it’s not flora, elite medicinal Stevia and Aloe. surprising that she, together with her Private clients and pharmaceutical competent team, plans to have the lab industry have expressed interest in accredited according to internationally partnering with Dube AgriLab to develop approved standards. This, she says, protocols on products of choice (for will ensure that AgriLab processes and example, hemp) for future IP sharing and products quality control is monitored commercialisation. continuously and will inspire even more confidence in its customers. The Dube AgriLab remains committed

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Netafim, the global leader of precision irrigation solutions and agricultural projects, announced during March that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Dutch turnkey greenhouse projects provider, Gakon.

AgTech Leader Netafim to acquire Gakon


etafim has been active in all aspects of greenhouse project for several decades in the execution, glasshouse manufacturing greenhouse market and is capabilities, and a proven track record now expanding its offering in key markets. The expanded offering in the production and supply of topleverages Netafim’s capacity as a holistic tier greenhouse projects to meet the destination for the increasing numbers of increasing demand for the most advanced growers of year-round crops and farm-tofarming methods. Driven by growing table local produce. populations, the call for sustainable “Greenhouse projects were already a agriculture and increasing concern over strategic priority for Netafim, with Covidfood security there has been a surge of 19 further validating the importance of interest in locally grown fresh produce. food security and a local fresh supply. We Netafim will provide growers with a are delighted to join forces with Gakon comprehensive offering of the best to enhance our in-house greenhouse greenhouse technologies, structures, related capabilities, including production, irrigation, fertigation, and crop growing and provide local farmers and growers expertise as well across the world with Gakon brings unique as other ag related greenhouse solutions expertise in all aspects services to enable and services that will of greenhouse project farmers to maximize support both farmers productivity and and local food security,” execution, glasshouse efficiency in all climate manufacturing capabilities, said Gabriel (Gaby) conditions. Miodownik, Netafim and a proven track record CEO. The acquisition is in key markets. synergetic, combining “Teaming up with Netafim’s global presence and expertise Netafim unlocks a world of opportunities in precision agriculture and Gakon’s for us,” said Pieter van Berchum, Director advanced greenhouse technology. of Gakon. “We are excited to be able to apply our deep knowledge and skills of With 56 years of agricultural project greenhouse horticulture to new markets experience and array of advanced and be part of a group that is set to drive irrigation technologies utilized in 80% forward sustainable and profitable crop of the world’s professional high-end production.” greenhouses, Netafim is well-established as a leading player in global agriculture Netafim is the world’s largest irrigation technology. Gakon brings unique expertise company and the global leader in precision

irrigation solutions committed to fighting scarcity of food, water, and land, for a sustainable future. With 33 subsidiaries and 17 manufacturing plants worldwide, Netafim offers innovative, tailor-made irrigation and fertigation solutions to millions of farmers from smallholders to large-scale agricultural producers, in over 110 countries. Founded in 1965, Netafim pioneered the drip revolution, creating a paradigm shift toward precision irrigation. Today, the company specializes in end-to-end solutions from the water source to the root zone, and offers a variety of irrigation, open field and greenhouse projects, as well as landscaping and mining solutions supported by engineering, project management and financing services. Netafim also leads the way in digital farming, having integrated realtime monitoring, analysis, and automated control into one state-of-the-art system. It is part of the Orbia community of companies, working together to tackle some of the world’s most complex challenges. Gakon Horticultural Projects is one of the leading companies in the world for producing, supplying, building, and servicing high quality turnkey horticultural projects. With 70 years of experience, Gakon (head office in Westland, Netherlands) produces its own NR greenhouses.

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Integrated pest management (IPM) offers a practical method for the effective management of pests under greenhouses and cannot be over-emphasized more. Through the adoption of sound cultural practices and monitoring techniques, accurate problem identification, and timely implementation and evaluation of appropriate management strategies, growers can improve vegetable production while minimizing their reliance on routine pesticide applications.

IPM and plant hygiene in

under protected cultivation reiterated Sanitation entering the greenhouse production area. It is important Without the airlock room, the fans draw to keep the air in through the unprotected doorway, area around rather than through the screened opening the exterior at the opposite end of the greenhouse, and interior of and it is common to see pest infestations the greenhouse free beginning in plants close to an unprotected Keeping IPM measures high on from weeds and other doorway. Even in passively ventilated your daily priority list, pays its dividends in terms of quality and plants that could harbour greenhouses, a secure entrance room is quantity of product. pests. An inventory should be important to regulate the easy entrance of made of plants in the area around pests to the production area. Such rooms the greenhouse to can also be used as determine their PM makes use of many different If pest populations build to a footbath and handrelative risk as a pest washing area or for management options: cultural, physical, a threshold level requiring harbour: remove high any other sanitation mechanical, biological and chemical. control measures, growers risk plants, with the practices for workers. Routine crop inspection alerts growers must be prepared for the exception of those to developing pest and cultural problems Insect that could attract while they are still minor and easily immediate implementation screening natural enemies and manageable. of a control plan taking Screens with a fine pollinators. Airlock Early detection and intervention is account of the current mesh to keep insects entrance walk-in the foundation of an IPM programme. out of the greenhouse specific spray or biological doorways provide Greenhouse management for the control can be an important control recommendations: an easy entrance for of insects and diseases depends on: the element in an IPM many pests; growers Choose either an IPM or local climate; external disease and insect programme and may need to evaluate pressure; the greenhouse structural traditional pesticide strategy. be used effectively strategies to reduce design; availability of climate control in both passively the likelihood of pest equipment; and the skill level of the ventilated and fan and pad greenhouses. entrance. greenhouse workers. Any screens added to a ventilation opening In greenhouses with fan will reduce airflow through that opening. and pad ventilation, an It is therefore important to follow the airlock entrance room manufacturer’s recommendations to is essential: attached increase the surface area covered by the to the 400 GAPs for screen to compensate for the reduction in greenhouse vegetable airflow, which in turn can burn fan motors crops: Principles for or reduce cooling by reducing ventilation. Mediterranean climate areas exterior of the Reflective or metallized greenhouse and enclosing mulches the entry doorway, its Highly reflective or metallized plastic double-door system A foot bath at the mulches have been used in agriculture entrance is absolutely allows workers to enter for many purposes and are particularly necessary to comply the airlock room and effective in reducing the entry of whitefly with sanitary measures close the outside door in a greenhouse. and thrips. Combining screening and behind them before



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Undercover farming I

September/October 2020

I Volume 17 No 5 15

greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics Table grapes are grown under shade net to withstand excessive wind and hail storms. It also protects the grapes from birds. (Pic: Plusnet)

Deciduous fruit, grape vine and horticultural breeding programmes by arc excell Commercial development of ARC-bred varieties has already made a significant impact on the South African Deciduous Fruit Industry. This impact is clearly reflected in the number of new cultivars that have been released to the industry during the past 20 years, as well as the foreign exchange earned through exporting these cultivars to countries abroad.


he ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, a research and development in fruit and member of the Crop Sciences wine production. The major focus is on Cluster of the Agricultural improved crop production and mitigation Research Council, is located of agricultural risks. This includes food in the Western Cape. The mandate is security as well as the sustainable use of to conduct research and development natural resources. Research is done to together with technology transfer on provide growers with improved cultivars the breeding, cultivation, protection and of pome-fruit, stone-fruit, fynbos, table post-harvest technology of deciduous and raisin grapes that are easy to grow fruit, grape vines, alternative crops and and easy to sell – whether for the fresh indigenous herbal teas. market, for drying or for canning. During the last 12 years, more than 50 Plant Breeder’s Rights on the cultivars cultivars including 5 are registered in climate-smart apples, the name of the During the last 12 years, 1 pear, 15 peaches, 12 Agricultural Research more than 50 cultivars nectarines, 8 plums, Council. These including 5 climate-smart 6 apricots, 6 table cultivars are licensed apples, 1 pear, 15 peaches, grapes, and the very and commercialised 12 nectarines, 8 plums, 6 first South African through agent(s). apricots, 6 table grapes, and A few highlights include raisin grape cultivar were developed, the very first South African the newly developed granted PBRs and ‘Afri-Range’ low chilling raisin grape cultivar were commercialised. apples. Commercial developed, granted PBRs The Infruitecapple production has and commercialised. Nietvoorbij campus traditionally been is the custodian of restricted to areas in grapevine, deciduous fruit and wine South Africa with cold winters. However, yeast genebanks that preserve genetic this new range of Afri apple varieties can resources for breeding purposes, training thrive under warmer climatic conditions. and comparative descriptions. Each The Cheeky® pear is an attractive, early division focuses on different aspects of blush pear with good eating qualities,

16 Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2

A picture of Joy Bells table grapes.

which may be the answer to maintaining a continual supply of South African export bi-colour pears. The Rosemarie pear is an attractive smooth-skinned pear with a slight blush and good eating quality, that was bred from Bon Rouge and Forelle. The Cederberg, Desert Sun and Sunsweet peaches are all exceptional for their drying quality, whereas the Autumn Crunch peach is great for the canning industry and local fresh market. Earliblush Peach


greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics Deciduous fruit, grape vine


is a very good crop with 80% or more red blush and very firm flesh. The Temptation peach is a very attractive, early maturing well coloured dessert peach. Through these, the South African canning industry saw an amazing growth of 300% in the last 10 years in the Chinese market, earning our farmers, processors, exporters and our economy an excellent return. The ARC’s Bella Nova and Donna Rosa nectarines have excellent handling and eating qualities; and store very well. Their African Delight™ plum is a dark red plum with excellent storage ability at both dual and single temperature regimes for 6 weeks. Ruby Crunch plum has ruby flesh, good cold storage and production.

Table grapes Joybells is a new South African-bred red, seedless table grape that was launched in 2018. As the name suggests, ‘Joybells’ was inspired by the unique bell-shaped appearance of the fruit, as well as the remarkable taste and texture. It is a high yield grape with a good tolerance to cracking, travels well and has good storage. Sundowner, launched in January 2020, is the first ever South African bred raisin cultivar to be commercially registered with the registrar of plants of South Africa. The name Sundowner was suggested as it depicts the reddish blush on the ripe berries, which resembles the sunset. The team in wine microbiology focuses on selection, breeding, evaluation and characterisation of new wine yeasts. Overall, the yeast project developed numerous novel yeast strains according to the changing demands of the wine industry. Proteas Looking at the impact of ARC fynbos breeding on the SA indigenous flower industry, three genera of Proteaceae forms the foundation of the South African floriculture industry: Protea, Leucospermum and Leucadendron. These genera became popular around the world, since cultivation of Proteaceae was initiated in the 1950’s and the first exports from these plantations occurred during the 1960’s. The ARC initiated their Fynbos floriculture program in 1970 at Riviersonderend, with the focus to support a new commercial industry that expanded from picking flowers in the wild, to commercial planting and marketing of fynbos flowers. As the industry grew, the opportunity for entrepreneurs was established; private breeding companies, nurseries, and research initiatives followed. Honeybush ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij also does research on the Cyclopia species, known as honeybush - an endemic genus growing in the fynbos region of South Africa. Honeybush tea is a well-known sweet tasting herbal tea and has many documented health properties. In the past 20 years, a small industry was developed, mainly driven by ARC researchers, which annually exports around 200 tons of processed tea to more than 25 countries. Through various research and development programmes, the Agricultural Research Council has been instrumental in improving South Africa’s agricultural productivity & global competitiveness while increasing our food supply, reducing hunger and improving food and nutrition security. Source: ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij

Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2 17

greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics

Inmed: First aquaponics social enterprise launched A global humanitarian development organization; INMED Partnerships for Children, has announced the launch of its first INMED Aquaponics® Social Enterprise (INMED ASE) in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng.


ccording to founder Dr. Linda Pfeiffer; the COVID19 pandemic has heightened awareness of the critical need for local food production that can be adapted to local conditions. Aquaponics is an intensive form of agriculture, combining hydroponics and fish farming in a closed symbiotic system that produces at least 10 times more crops than traditional farming. The system uses much less water (open farming would), with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides - even where scarce water, soil and space conditions exist. “Yet more than just providing food security, the INMED ASE was designed to act as a powerful catalyst in transitioning historically disadvantaged populations, including people with disabilities, women and youth, from subsistence to commercial (marketbased) agricultural production using climate-smart aquaponics,” Pfeiffer said. Unathi Sihlahla, SA Director says over the past decade the organisation has developed an innovative, simplified form of aquaponics and a unique implementation model to deliver inclusive and sustainable food production in regions hard hit by climate change. This model has been tested on three continents, with operations in more than a dozen locations in South Africa, including in schools and with cooperatives led by women and people with disabilities. “It is ready to scale nationally, and we

Aquaponics system with frilly green lettuce in a grow bed.

are very proud to be launching the first global site. The model is definitely the next step in transforming struggling communities into thriving climatesmart hubs of selfreliance,” Sihlahla says. The system is a new The first INMED ASE in Vanderbijlpark, a new type of incubator type of incubator of entrepreneurial agro-enterprises for climate-smart food of entrepreneurial production. It houses commercial aquaponics systems that will agro-enterprises for be used for food production and training of the growing number of aquaponics farmers in SA. climate-smart food production. The first hub in Vanderbijlpark houses commercial aquaponics systems that will be used for food production and training. It also will serve as a consolidation center for the growing The flourishing seedling nursery. number of aquaponics farmers to sell their harvests at higher market rates as well as purchase inputs, such as seedlings and fingerlings, at bulk prices. “What makes the INMED ASE unique,” says Sihlahla, “is that it Microgreen trays with radish and rocket seedlings. is designed to facilitate the entire value chain of training, access to financing and links to technical and business markets to help small-scale farmers and traditionally marginalised populations overcome the barriers to entry, sustainability and scale. We are already partnering with restaurant and grocery chains to purchase the products farmed by our network of aquaponics farmers,” he says. Sustainability is key, generating revenue from the sale of crops and fish from its own aquaponics systems as well as earning reimbursements for training and consolidation services. The business model also establishes satellite centers to provide localised training, resources and production to scale the venture nationally and internationally. INMED South Africa

18 Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2

Lush spinach seedlings.


greenhouses I shade net I hydroponics I aquaponics



has already launched satellite centers run by farming cooperatives, schools and communities in Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape provinces. It is the ideal program model to complement Mondelez International’s new Sustainable Futures initiative, which is the first to invest in INMED ASE. Under its new Sustainable Futures IPM and plant hygiene


metallized mulch results in the greatest total reduction of whitefly entry. Scouting and insect monitoring Even with implementation of all the above exclusion techniques, some insects will still enter the greenhouse. Early detection of pests in the crop is crucial and pest monitoring tools and techniques must be used, for example, yellow sticky traps, plant scouting and examination of plants with a hand lens. Pest infestations are usually location-specific; for example, hot spots of pests near ventilation or doorway openings are common. Control strategies If pest populations build to a threshold level requiring control measures, growers must be prepared for the immediate implementation of a control plan taking account of the current specific spray or biological control recommendations: Choose either an IPM or traditional pesticide strategy. Many excellent biological control agents are now available against common pests; however, in the case of virus transmission from insect vectors (whitefly transmitting yellow leaf curl virus), be cautious with biological control strategies because a low level of a pest population is necessary to “feed” the

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impact investing platform, Mondelez International seeks to incubate, finance and support self-sustaining ventures that address key challenges in the world. Sustainable Futures seeks to co-invest in projects addressing climate change, as well as making seed investments in social ventures that aim to improve livelihoods and build healthy communities– something INMED Partnerships for

Children has been working toward around the world since 1986. “We’ve worked in partnership with Mondelez in South Africa and Brazil for more than a decade to foster meaningful and sustainable change for the people who need it most,” comments Pfeiffer. “The INMED ASE takes this partnership to the next level, allowing us to scale the impact globally.”

beneficial agent. Carefully examine pesticide choices and use the safest effective materials available. Follow a good pesticide rotation programme to slow the development of pesticide resistance. Many “soft” or “biorational” pesticides (e.g. soaps, oils, neem products and Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt]) can play an important role in an IPM programme for greenhouse vegetables. Soil should be slightly acid (around pH 6.5). If in doubt, soil analysis is required through the local extension office, by a private lab, or with a commercial soil test kit. Lime can be used to increase soil pH, and sulphur to lower pH. Adequate levels of soil fertility need maintaining through addition of potassium and phosphorusreleasing materials, such as commercial fertilizers or animal manures. Soil testing should be done every three years to determine the levels of these important nutrients. The regular addition of organic matter, such as yard waste, compost and manure, is important for a biologically active, healthy soil. Select vegetable varieties with maximum insect and disease resistance. Buy plants from a reputable nursery which can guarantee that they are free from disease and insects with a phytosanitary control certificate; alternatively, grow your own from seed of which the health status has

been checked. Space plants properly and thin young vegetables to a proper stand. Overcrowding causes weak growth and reduces air movement, resulting in increased insect and disease problems. Keep down weeds and grass. They often harbour pests and compete for nutrients and water. Leaf and other organic mulches are extremely effective for weed control, as are inorganic weed mats, plastic and other fabrics. Avoid injury to plants – broken limbs, cuts; bruises, cracks and insect damage are often the site for infection by disease-causing organisms. Remove and dispose of infected leaves from diseased plants as soon as they are observed; likewise, remove severely diseased plants before they contaminate others. The infected plants and leaves can be used to make compost. Clean up crop refuse at the end of each day’s work.

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Shade Net

Food SecUrity


plaNt hygieNe

Shade net makes a difference page 4

dube agrilab & Food security page 10

Bio food packaging page 12

ipM & plant hygiene page 15

DISEASE MANAGEMENT Vegetable diseases include early blight, late blight, powdery mildew, downy mildew, damping-off, and viral and bacterial diseases. For effective control, they must be properly identified. An integrated approach to disease management involves the use of resistant cultivars, sanitation, sound cultural practices and the proper use of the correct pesticides. By: M A Wali for FAO

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Undercover farming I March/April 2021 I Volume 18 No 2 19






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Undercover Farming Magazine March / April 2021  


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